Issue > Poetry
Cyrus Cassells

Cyrus Cassells

Cyrus Cassells is the author of five acclaimed books of poetry: The Mud Actor, Soul Make a Path Through Shouting, Beautiful Signor, More Than Peace and Cypresses and The Crossed-Out Swastika. His sixth book, The Gospel according to Wild Indigo: New & Selected Poems, is forthcoming. Among his honors are a Lannan Literary Award, a William Carlos Williams Award and a Lambda Literary Award.

You Be The Dancer


In the small hours, under Taurus,
Let's go back to adoring
The soul of the moon-bathed hill,
Whether we're feeling frisky,
Empty-handed,
Or still beguiled by inchoate dreams—
Let's revisit the cornerstone hour
When, all of twelve, I confessed
My preening babysitter,
In his detestable paisley cap
And sun-faded overalls,
Forced me to be his faux valentine,
And, in a risk-taking gambit,
You grasped my shaky hand,
And led me to this spellbinding hill,
With its exhilarating shouts
Of sage and cinquefoil—

Long ago, amid pert rosemary flowers,
I had my first authentic kiss
(I don't count the bully!),
My first Cuban cigar
(Not the counterfeit bubblegum kind).
As brash, brand-new acolytes,
We had no elucidating word  
For the hothouse link between us;
Bud-green Romeo & Romeo, we weren't
Blundering interns:
More like callow troubadours,
Meek or incautious
Navigators of the flesh—

Can you worship a place?
The way the avid Romans once revered
Their tutelary gods?
Look, here's our unmistakable boxwood,
The Blue Star juniper,
The night-silvered belvedere
Revealing the acrobatic river
And the bumpkin town
We were so hell-bent to leave:
I'm sure I could whip up a passable map,
A crude miniature
Of this facile-to-memorize hill,
Our hush-hush stronghold,
Or better still, an apt
Pirate's or scalawag's design,
Reclaimed a century or two from today,
With a conspicuous x-marks-the-spot
Leading its lucky finder
Directly to our talismanic hill—

And yes, this pulse-altering place
Was tantamount to an idyllic schoolhouse:
You praised, like a pimpled Solomon,
My terrific lashes,
My magnetic, "tea-brown eyes,"
And taught me to dance up here—
Mashed Potato, Loco-Motion, Frug, and Shimmy—
And thus, mon amour, I found my métier;
You started calling me Dancer,
And the puckish nickname stuck:
I became the nimble boy
All the doting 8th grade girls desired
On the auditorium floor,
But with you, I was a clandestine dancer—

Then in-a-dash years passed:
Some bereft of any word of you,
Some brimming with up-to-the minute bulletins
Of your escapades, blazing hopes, accomplishments—

Home now, standing on our failsafe hill,
I insist: Baby, it's worth our while,
Coming back, despite the old
Boredom, secrecy, and blatant bullying—
After relishing the compass star's clarity,
The glittering river's ballet,
You laugh and cajole:
I definitely prefer the grown-up you,
But wonder: can you still manage
A cartwheel? And dare I ask—the Batusi?—

Transformed by winnowing Time's wand
Into abiding, grey-bearded revenants,  
Burly, truth-or-bust men,
We laugh in disbelief:
Look at us; I can't believe
We're lovers again at sixty—

And on this allaying hill,
Hemmed with showy, Mars-red berries
Littering a reflecting creek,
The hallowing summer night,
The ecstatic hour of our homecoming winds
The way a caduceus winds and heals—

Of course I'll marry you.

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